Common problems with design career advice

Career advice is common amongst designers. Often from respected designers. But I see common problems with some advice.

The advice reflects an ideal situation/perspective

Many designers who give advice work for closer-to-ideal companies than the majority. The company they’re associated with is doing things in the right way. This advice isn’t as useful to designers who, statistically, will probably apply to/work for companies that don’t do things in the right way.

e.g. “Your portfolio doesn’t need to be beautiful, it just needs to explain your process” isn’t helpful when most companies do seem to be impressed by beautiful portfolios.

The advice is from someone who doesn’t decide whether you’ll be hired

Career advice, especially about how to get a new job, should come from people who decide whether or not designers will be hired. Other designers might not have enough insight into the hiring process.

The advice reflects that designer’s career path only

Designers often give advice about what skills to learn, what topics to dive into, or what kinds of companies to work for. Generally these represent the career path of the person who gives the advice. But other career paths are possible, and might be better for the advice-seeker’s situation.

The advice reflects the designer’s current focus

Some designers claim that X is most important (e.g. research, people skills, documentation). In these cases X is generally what the designer who gave the advice is currently focused on. They feel that other areas of design are less important because they’re less important to them, now. In fact those other areas may be just as, or more, important. Especially for people in other situations.

The advice reflects the designer’s current view

Some designers notice that changes are happening. They give advice based on what they’ve noticed. And it might be true that “everyone they know is going through this”. But they probably know less than 1% of the design community. Their advice might be irrelevant to people who are not part of the design industry slice they can see.